Hitting Close to Home

By now, thanks to all of the efforts that National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has put in developing great statistical reports year after year, we in the fire service know that the majority of the fires and the fatalities occur in homes.Take a look...

Needless to say, educating our public is the responsibility of all fire service organizations. There are plenty of great fire service organizations that could and should roll up their sleeves to help with this public education effort. The more active and systematic involvement from all other national fire organizations, such as the IAFF, the merrier.

Who am I to suggest such tasks to the highest fire service leaders in our country? Nobody.

Just a small member of this large family of public servants, who truly believes that we need involvement at the highest organizational levels from the cream of the crop and our best leaders at the national level, to establish ties with these two very influential organizations, with the intent to better educate millions of members about better life safety and fire protection. Undoubtedly such leadership would then trickle down to the state and local levels and serve all our communities well.

To tell you the truth, it doesn't matter why this was not done before. But I don't have any doubt at all that our sustained, systematic public education efforts in those fronts would yield positive results. Does anybody have a good reason why we should not do this? Then why not get involved now?

Oh, before you think that I forgot about mentioning the other vulnerable population group, the very young; I must tell you that although the NFPA report indicates that "children under the age of 5 are almost eight times as likely to die in a fire caused by playing with heat source than are people of all ages," the that report indicates that "from 1980 to 2007, the share of home fire deaths accounted for by children under age 5 declined from 18% to 9%."

The report also said that "the relative index for home fire deaths for children under age 5 has declined sharply since 1994, when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) instituted requirements for child resistance in lighters."

That certainly is good news, and the 50% reduction in 27 years is indeed a great trend. I am sure that with all of the NFPA's efforts and the legislations in various states to ban sale of the novelty lighters, we will see a further reduction in reducing our youth fire fatalities in future.

I am fast approaching the AARP membership age myself. I don't know about you, but I personally don't like the odds staked against me as I age, as the NFPA report shows. You don't have to be a bookie in Las Vegas to recognize that the odds of dying in fire for adults older than 75, being 2.5 times more than the general public, is not in your favor.

For me, thank goodness that we have the buffets here in Las Vegas, otherwise the report's statistics that "adults 85 and older are at higher risk of death in fires caused by cooking equipment, with a risk rating 4.5 times that of the general public" would mean that kitchen will be closed for good when/if I get to be 85. Just kidding, but you see the point.

Why did I write this article now? Call me selfish, but I wrote this article to promote better fire and life safety education for the higher risk population groups, just to increase my own odds of survival from fire if/when I get too old to self preserve.

Considering that we in the fire service are not in the habit of embracing change too fast (no kidding, just take a look at the 1947 conference recommendations), I thought that if I promote the concept now, although it won't help my own parents, but then it might help me down the line when I get to that age.

Seriously though, take the time to read this new NFPA report. It shows where we need to be focusing on more and provides us with the exact coordinates of the targets. Most importantly though, get involved and ask your national fire service organizations to be actively involved in this great public education effort.

This report is hitting close to home for me. Remember my friends, that you will be facing these same exact challenges as you age, and the odds are stacked against you. Unless we do something about it.

AZARANG (OZZIE) MIRKHAH P.E., CBO, EFO, CFO, MIFireE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is the Fire Protection Engineer for the City of Las Vegas Department of Fire & Rescue. Ozzie served on the national NFPA 13 Technical Committee for Sprinkler System Discharge Design Criteria and serves on the IAFC Fire Life Safety Section Board of Directors. He was the first recipient of the IAFC's Excellence in Fire and Life Safety Award in 2007. Ozzie has participated in two Radio@Firehouse podcasts: Six Days, Six Fires, 19 Children and 9 Adults Killed and Fire Marshal's Corner. You can reach Ozzie by e-mail at amirkhah@lasvegasnevada.gov.